Gujarat journalist booked under sedition gets bail

COVID-19: Gujarat journalist booked under sedition for writing speculative story gets bail

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A sessions court on Wednesday granted bail to a 32-year-old journalist booked under sedition for writing a speculative story suggesting "change of guard" in the state in view of the coronavirus pandemic and state government's failure in dealing with it. The court held that there is no "prima facie" evidence against the journalist suggesting a seditious act.

The sessions judge Prerana C Chauhan pronounced the order giving relief to Patel with certain conditions including submitting his passports, among others. Patel runs a Gujarati news portal named “Face of Nation.” On May 7, he ran a news story on this portal titled “Mansukh Mandaviya called by high command, chances of change of guard in Gujarat.” Mandaviya is a Rajya Sabha MP from Gujarat and a Union Minister of State for shipping, chemicals and fertilisers. The news report had also alleged that Vijay Rupani-led state government had failed in containing the virus.

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Following this report, the Detection of Crime Branch (DCB) booked Patel for sedition and he was arrested on May 13. After spending a day in police custody, he was sent to Sabarmati Central Jail in judicial custody.

The judge has observed in the order that for an offence of sedition, "seditious intention" is basic requirement.

"An intention to bring into hatred or contempt or to excite dissatisfaction is necessary. The gist of the offence u/s.124A (of Indian Penal Code) lies in the intention of the writer to bring into hatred and contempt the Government and is not to be gathered from isolated or stray passages here and there but from a fair and generous reading of article as a whole," the order states.



It notes further that "It is true that it is not sedition to criticise administrative machinery or the officers of Government but where the speaker exceeds the limits of fair criticism and his object in attacking the existing Govt. is to create disaffection, the speech amounts to sedition. Now the question of intention is always an important factor in such cases and intention is proved also by evidences. So intention is a matter of evidence."

The court has held that "after reading of FIR with all police papers and different statements, no such prima facie serious offence is looked out."

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